The last time the Montana football team played in Bozeman in 2019, it was a disaster for the Grizzlies.
Ditto for Montana State last year when the Cats played in Missoula.
A common denominator is that the team that scored first retained the lead for the entire duration. You could say it was like golf – chili dip a chip on the first hole and it ruins your whole round.
It would be foolish to predict that the same thing will happen on Saturday. Griz and Cats have both shown resilience and explosiveness on offense.
But it’s worth mentioning. Montana has a so-so record of 2-2 on the road this season and the Griz will play in front of a rowdy and rowdy crowd on Saturday that will be unlike anything they’ve experienced all season.
If the Griz fall behind and are forced to throw the ball, it could become a big problem.
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The 121st Brawl of the Wild will be unlike any other. ESPN’s College GameDay is coming to Bozeman and it’s a big deal for many, including the Big Sky Conference.
Call it a three-hour commercial for the Bobcats and Grizzlies and the little town of Bozeman. You know, that lovely place with overpriced apartments where Montana coach Bobby Hauck told his players he never wanted to spend a dime.
ESPN reporters will be roaming the halls of Montana State later this week. They could be near the coach’s office and the field and maybe even in the weight room or the student cafeteria.
It will be a distraction for the Bobcats. That’s my not-so-bold prediction. When the game rolls around midday, some members of the home team might have stars in their eyes.
It might be just enough distraction for Montana to keep the excitement going. On the other hand, it may not matter.
Anyone who tells you they know what’s going to happen on Saturday is full of cops. No one knew the Grizzlies would be blown out in Bozeman three years ago, including the Cats. Nobody expected the Cats to be blown out in Missoula last year, including the Grizzlies.
That’s the beauty of today’s rivalry. It is very difficult to predict the outcome. I love that about the game.
So please keep in mind as you read this week’s picks that the Missoulian sports staff doesn’t know any more about Saturday’s result than you do. And like many fans, our hearts are in it.
Now ask yourself: If you were to bet $100 on the game, who would you choose? The home team, with their seven-game winning streak and offense, that scored 72 points at Cal Poly last Saturday, or the away team that hasn’t beaten a top-25 opponent all season?
I will go with the visiting team because I bet with my heart. However, I never bet more than a dollar, and that makes it easier to bet with my heart.
Here’s Missoulian’s staff picks for this week:
No. 13 Montana (4-3, 7-3) at No. 3 Montana State (7-0, 9-1), Noon, KPAX-TV and ESPN+: For the Grizzlies to win, their defense must reach their potential against the best offense in Big Sky. Giving up 30 points like they did against Idaho just won’t get the job done. If the Grizzlies can keep Montana State under 30, they can win. But they have to force some turnovers. I’m picking a surprise here because the game means so much to Montana native Hauck. spelled: Montana 30, State of Montana 27. Semb: Montana 31, MSU 30.
No. 7 Weber State (5-2, 8-2) at Northern Arizona (2-5, 3-7), 1 p.m. ESPN+: This is actually a harder game than you might think looking at the records. Northern Arizona stunned many, including the three Missoulia forecasters, when it lost in northern Colorado last week. A week earlier, the Jacks had Montana State on the ropes at home and quarterback RJ Martinez was impressive. NAU will play better this week, but Weber has more work to do to head into the postseason. spelled: Weber 33, Nau 30. Semb: Weber State 35, NAU 20.
No. 21 Idaho (5-2, 6-4) in Idaho State (1-6, 1-9), 1 p.m. ESPN+: The Vandals were the feel-good story of the year in Big Sky Conference. They won’t squash their playoff hopes against a Bengals team that averages just over 14 points per game. spelled: Idaho 48, State of Idaho 13. Semb: Idaho 40, State of Idaho 10.
No. 24 UC Davis (5-2, 6-4) at No. 2 Sacramento State (7-0, 10-0), 3 p.m., ESPN+: What’s special about the Big Sky Football Conference this season is that the team at the top of the table (Hornets) is not much better than the team in sixth place (Grizzlies). That’s just my humble opinion and makes this game hard to call. In fact, I’m going with the Aggies because they might get a playoff spot if they win. spelled: Davis 35, Sac State 31. Semb: Sac State 33, Davis 30.
Northern Colorado (2-5, 3-7) at Eastern Washington (1-6, 2-8), 2 p.m.: Give the Bears credit for showing up at an exciting home in northern Arizona last week and playing some good football. The Eagles, on the other hand, didn’t put up much resistance Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. spelled: Bears 27, eagles 21. Semb: Northern Colorado 28, EMU 14.
Portland State (3-4, 4-6) at Cal Poly (0-7, 1-9), 6 p.m.: Could it be that Cal Poly coach Beau Baldwin, who led EWU to a national title 12 years ago, is in the hot seat? If not, it’s only because Cal Poly has such high academic standards and school officials understand that building a winner takes a long time. The whole situation in San Luis Obispo makes crystal clear why Baldwin’s predecessor went on the triple-option offensive. This offense was so unique that even when overpowered, it gave the Mustangs a chance. spelled: Portland State 40, Cal Poly 21. Semb: Portland State 45, Cal Poly 24.
Have a comment or question about Missoulian’s coverage of the Griz football team? Contact Speltz at [email protected] Speltz is a Missoulian Sports Editor and has been a Sunday columnist for the past 15 years.